Sunday, July 14

Sunshine on Leith – Rainhill Village Hall

If the question was, do you want to make this work, then director Claire Heaton, a late step-in to get this production on the stage, has delivered a resounding yes with this enjoyable, foot-tapping, and emotional extravaganza featuring songs from The Proclaimers and celebrating all things Scottish – well, England did only manage a draw tonight in the Euros!

Recently discharged from the army, Davy (Bryan Dargie) and Alistair (Simon Burgess) return to their families and homes in Edinburgh. Alistair is going out with Davy’s sister, Liz (Charlotte Payne), a nurse, and on the first night back, she sets her brother up on a blind date with one of her colleagues, Yvonne (Dawn Louise). Against this backdrop of youthful love, Davy and Liz’s parents, Rab (Paul Henshaw) and Jean (Julie Gould) are about to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary, but when stranger Eilidh (Claire Jones) appears on the scene, events are set to take a dramatic turn…

In a story focused on family and what it means to belong, our principal players are supported by a strong ensemble (Ryan Greenall; Fiona O’Gorman; Pip Bradshaw; Julie Robinson; Anita Shaw; Meg Charlton; Charlotte Orme; Barbara Marsh; Annie Topping; and Heaton) who play multiple roles throughout.

The play brings its own challenges with several overly short scenes that have the potential to disrupt the flow but with seamless stage management from Andy Pink and Heaton’s use of split staging and strong sets to condense the action as well as clever use of entrances from the audience, the pace is on the whole maintained, with Michelle Williams’ choreography lifting a number of the cast and ensemble scenes up another notch.

Paul Robinson and Gould deliver strong performances as the older couple facing a different set of challenges with both delivering fine solos, whilst Burgess and Payne embody the restlessness of youthful love with good vocals throughout. Dargie and Louise are probably the dream pairing with both delivering powerful performances with Louise’s impressive vocal complemented by some fine acting; Dargie is the consummate performer who delivers in droves with fine vocal and acting whilst happily sharing his talent across the stage with his fellow performers through his natural energy, enthusiasm, and exuberance.

The on-stage magic is matched by Maestro Wayne Oakes in the pit leading his eight-piece orchestra (Kieran Gray – keyboard; Kev Bates – guitar; Jack Charles – guitar; Dave Semans – bass; Amy Gray – drum; Lucy Gray – violin; Pat Naylor – viola; Jenny McGowan – cello) through twenty musical numbers, showcasing the importance of live musical performance in its own right to support and complement musical theatre.

There is a real depth to Rainhill Musical Theatre Company that was reflected as much in the front-of-house team, who did not feature on stage tonight, as there was in the ensemble that did and from whom I would single out two for a special mention: Julie Robinson was well and truly out on her own with her solo rendition of Simple Things an absolute delight, whilst Charlton, featuring in a number of support roles, sparkled with both her acting and vocal prowess throughout.

Rainhill Village Hall is a short walking distance from Rainhill Station (Liverpool-Manchester line) with free parking also available (post code for the hall is L35 4LU). There are also lot of amazing restaurants and bars in Rainhill village, so you could treat yourself before the show and make a night of it.

Sunshine on Leith performs at Rainhill Village Hall through to 22nd June 2024 at 7.30pm with tickets available via https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/rainhillmtc or telephone 07399 031 655.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 20th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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